Mmm… Blackberry Pie

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Blackberry Cobbler

I noticed we had a lot of frozen berries in the big freezer and decided to make a cobbler out of some of the blackberries.  I’m used to calling on Mrs J to do my cobbler topping but today I used the awesome power of the Google to query the Pioneer Woman about a good way to go about making one.  She shames me with her wit and photographic skillz.  Go over there and learn how to make it.  I’ll just natter along here until you get back.

You’d think with a nice step by step illustrated guide it would be difficult to mess this pretty simple recipe up but you haven’t seen me gimp around the kitchen in a sudden hurry when confronted with the results of a little arithmetic.  Confused yet?  Note that her recipe is for a round dish, 9 or 10 inches or thereabouts.  I was making it in a 9X13 pan.  Doesn’t take much figurin to see that the amounts for the pan I was using would be greater than the amounts the Pioneer Gal set out to document.  Anyway, I mixed up a batch of the cake batter and poured it into the pan and then it struck me:  I need more of this stuff!

Note that the recipe calls for self rising flour.  I didn’t have any but it’s easy to make up a batch, just add 1-1/2 t of baking powder and 1/2 t of salt to a cup of all purpose flour and you have it.  I did all the adding of powders and sifting together and was feeling all Big Kitchen Daddy Baker Dude up until I realized I needed another batch and promptly forgot all about that little aside with the self rising recipe and all.  The second batch of batter went into the pan right  along side the first.  Not sure how many blackberries I used when I dumped the thawed berries into the batter.  I note that one can use too many berries and that they can overwhelm the batter.  I am right at that edge.  I won’t say I used too many but if I make another batch I’ll not use all that I did today.

The pan I used was bigger, but not quite two times as big so the double amount of berries and batter layered in there a bit thicker than the original recipe and so took longer to bake.  I looked in at 55 minutes and gave the timer an extra 5 minutes at least four and maybe five times before I pulled the cobbler out-call it 80 minutes total at 350.  I will note that I set the pan atop a baking stone and that seems to add a need for extra time all by itself.  It seemed to be just about right, though a tad heavy (maybe!) on the berries.

Apple Cobbler

This started out differently, I used the topping recipe from the site pictured in the “new recipe machine” post below and it just didn’t work out as I would have liked.  I ended up crumbling the cake-like topping and mixing it into the apples and using a basic rolled oat/flour crumble topping that the lovely Mrs J was kind enough to assemble while I was occupied with the cornbread recipe.

The apples ended cooked very well indeed!

Winter Compote

This may be the fruit dish I go with as a dessert item.  It has pretty holiday colors when finished and a tart flavor as a perfect complement to a good quality vanilla ice cream.  If you want to make it an adult affair, toss in some brandy along with the cider, or use hard cider.

Winter Compote

  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 12 oz fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 1-inch slice lemon peel
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 4 pears, sliced, seeded and peeled
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream

saucepan and 2 qt covered baking dish, lightly oiled

In saucepan, heat applesauce, cranberries, cider, lemon peel. Bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, let simmer while preparing remaining fruit. Add apples and pears to baking dish, pour sauce over fruit and bake covered at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover and cook additional 10 minutes, until fruit is tender. Remove lemon peel and serve with ice cream.


Mmm…Cherry Pie

We’ve been watching all the celebrity chefs show off their mad apple pie skilz.  Mrs J was talking about how her Momma could crank pies out like a Mrs Smith’s pie factory, and how she helped as a young lass but for whatever reason she now struggled to make a decent crust.  Last night we watched Alton Brown make an apple pie that looked very good and we paid close attention to the crust recipe he used.

Mrs J noted, when my prodding became more intense, that we didn’t have any apple jack like Alton used.  I remembered reading in a comment thread somewhere that vodka would work as a moistening agent-it had no real taste and did the moistening of the flour just fine without forming any nasty gluten that was the enemy of flaky pie crusts everywhere.  She allowed that vodka would be worth a try but that we had no apples.  I reminded her that this was an exercise in building a crust, and that we did have some canned cherry pie filling.  She finally broke down and tried her hand at a cherry pie.

She used lard for the shortening, along with the butter.  Things proceeded pretty much according to plan, the flour came together in the food processor just as it did for Mr Brown.  She used 6 tablespoons of 80 proof vodka-the only change from the recipe.  The dough was chilled for an hour before she rolled it out.  The first piece went just fine, but the top proved fragile-she had to roll it out again.  It was finally ready to bake.

It spent 30 minutes in a 350 oven covered with foil, then the foil was removed and an egg wash applied to the top.  Back into the oven it went, she boosted the temp a bit, 375 I think at the end.  It spent an additional 45 minutes or more in the oven before we finally took it out.

Mrs J judges it the best crust she has ever made.  I am loathe to argue the point.


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Thursday Night Menu: Fresh and Easy Edition

Tonight’s menu is a cheat. I’ve posted the Pasta Caprese before (late last summer), but it is such a good summer meal, it bears repeating. And besides it’s my birthday. I’ve taken the day off to do fun stuff. Enjoy!

On the board tonight:

  1. Pasta Caprese
  2. Italian Bread
  3. Vanilla Ice Cream w/Warm Walnut Topping

Pasta Caprese

  • 9 oz linguine or fettuccine
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 4 oz cubed mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan and large serving dish

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While it’s cooking, mix remaining ingredients together. Drain pasta completely (dab with paper towels, if necessary) then add to tomato mixture. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to let flavors blend. Serve warm or you can refrigerate and serve cold. Add a nice loaf of bread for a complete dinner.

I use a fairly expensive mozzarella for this dish because it’s softer, tastier and absorbs more flavors. Any locally produced mozzarella would work. Also, my local farmers’ market has a pasta vendor, who hand-makes many flavors of pasta. This dish works very well with flavored pastas – fire roasted chili, lemon pepper, tomato basil, red bell pepper – the list goes on. You can also change up the cheese to a Queso Blanco (again, use a fairly expensive or locally produced one), use cilantro instead of basil and use a chili flavored pasta for a whole new dish. The possibilities are endless.

A yogurt shop used to serve this as a topping and I had to make it.  Also really good on pancakes, French Toast and German Pancakes.

Warm Walnut Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts


Heat sugars, syrup and water to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer until thickened, 10-12 minutes. Stir in butter and walnuts. Great over pancakes, too.

Shopping List:

  • 9 oz linguine or fettuccini
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 4 oz mozzarella
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • Nice loaf of Italian bread
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 oz light corn syrup
  • 12 oz chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 gallon quality vanilla ice cream

Also: olive oil, crushed garlic, butter

Thursday Night Menu: Pico De Gallo Fish

I’m off with family, getting ready for my youngest brother’s wedding.  I’ll be the one in the pretty bridesmaid dress,  my 3-year-old niece and I playing princess in our matching dresses while mom and dad get hitched.  But I didn’t forget you guys.  I thought a fish recipe would be nice since we haven’t had one in a while.   This fish is courtesy of my friend Alton Gunn.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pico De Gallo Fish
  2. Rice
  3. Tomato-Avocado Chutney
  4. Fresh Pineapple w/Ice Cream

Pico De Gallo Fish

  • 4 fish fillets (tilapia, catfish, haddock or other)
  • Pico De Gallo seasoning*
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • olive oil

baking dish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle each fillet lightly with Pico De Gallo, salt and pepper, place in a lightly oiled baking dish (or in foil if you want to grill it instead). Place cilantro and a lime slice on top of each fillet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until fish flakes easily.

*or use chili powder and a touch of cumin.

Avocado-Tomato Chutney

  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 2 tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp limejuice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together & chill.

Hint: when cubing an avocado, it’s easiest if you cut it in half, remove the pit, slice lengthwise & crosswise without cutting the skin, then scoop out with a spoon. No peeling needed.

Shopping List:

  • 4 fish fillets (tilapia, catfish, haddock or other)
  • 1 cup rice (this would be a good time to try a new rice)
  • Pico De Gallo seasoning
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 2 avocado
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Fresh pineapple
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream

Also: salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, limejuice